Childhood games are usually pretty harmless. A summer evening spent playing “hide and go seek” can become some of the best memories we take into adulthood. As children, we often idolize the adults in our lives and look to them as role models. This means imitating them and wanting to do “grown-up” things like drive a car or even replace a toy gun with a real one. A simple game of “cops and robbers” turned deadly in a rural home after three young brothers added a genuine gun to this game.
A 10-year-old boy was playing this childhood game with two of his brothers. There was at least one gun in the home that was accessible to the kids. The rifle had the magazine removed, but unfortunately, there was already one live round loaded into the chamber. The boys did not know there was a bullet inside the gun and the youngest of the three started to play with the rifle.
The gun was aimed and shot at the fourteen-year-old brother of the younger boy. Even without the magazine attached, the gun can fire the single bullet that was left in the chamber. This occurred as the weapon was pointed at the teen during the game, and he was shot in the chest.
As emergency crews arrived on the scene, the teen died due to the single bullet wound to the chest. The gun is owned by the father of the boys, and upon investigation, authorities found it had been left accessible to the kids. At press time, the gun owner had not been charged with any crime. It is not clear if there will be charges filed in connection to the weapon access.
Cases like this are not uncommon as each year nearly 1,300 children die of gun related injuries in the United States. Of these deaths, boys account for the majority of the victims. Of all the children who die each year due to gun accidents, 82% are boys.
Young males living in rural areas are also much more likely to die in this type of accident than those living in the major cities or other areas. The state of Alaska has one of the highest per capita rates of accidental gun related deaths of children in the country, as does Louisana.
While some may argue that just banning gun ownership would end this problem, many point to some straightforward steps that can be taken to maintain gun safely in the home. In the case of this tragic accident, the gun owner made a small attempt to secure the rifle by removing the magazine. There may have been a lack of understanding as far as the actual working of the gun when the round was left in the chamber.
Whether an adult in the home has a gun for work, protection or even hunting, it is important to invest in necessary security measures to keep the gun out of the hands of any children or unlicensed adults in the home. To carry a gun legally, an adult in the household registers the rifle or gun. The person holding that permit is responsible for securing the gun safely.
There are a variety of products made specifically to help secure these types of weapons in a home or business. According to a security expert, Nathan Williams:
“…storing a gun safely is the key to avoid household accidents. This starts with clearing the chamber and separating the ammunition from the gun. Adding a trigger lock to any gun not being carried by an adult and always locking all guns up in a safe or lock box can also help to avoid a child having access.”
The death of this 14-year-old boy can not be undone, but it can serve as a reminder of the need for security measures when it comes to guns in the home. In more rural parts of the country, a gun is often just another tool for daily survival. Learning to secure and properly handle each gun in the home goes a long way to help to avoid this type of tragic situation. A trigger lock or gun safe, in this case, could have made the difference. As Williams adds, “…gun safety and responsible use is the key to security in many rural areas.”